It’s hard to believe that in our depressed economy and flattened real estate market that in some areas of the U.S., home values actually appreciated year-over-year. It’s true — there was a real estate Santa Claus for some of us this past quarter.

In our Q1 Home Value Report, we did an analysis of 160 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs), and found that only 30 MSAs did not lose value from a year ago at this same time (January to March), while the U.S. as a whole depreciated 7.7%. Guess which area of the U.S. topped the list for most appreciation? If you said Mobile, Alabama, you go to the head of the class.

Region Zindex YoY Change
Mobile, Ala $120,500 11.8%
Jacksonville, NC $135,500 6.7%
Burlington, NC $132,500 6.3%
Yakima, WA $126,500 5.2%
Oklahoma City, OK $104,500 5.0%
Pueblo, CO $121,500 4.9%
Winston-Salem, NC $133,000 4.7%
Redding, CA $279,000 4.5%
RaleighCary, NC $220,000 3.8%
Grand Junction, CO $219,000 3.7%

Mobile’s home values appreciated 11.8% from a year ago and it has a Zindex value of $120,5000, which is much less than the U.S. median of $213,000. We did some quickMobile, Alabama Zindex digging and found that Mobile’s relatively low unemployment rate (3.7%, Feb. 2008) and low cost of living may be two factors that have kept it humming. One can’t help but notice that Mobile’s economic upswing began just after the devastating Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. MONEY Magazine even named Mobile among its Top 100 Places to Live in 2007.

Other areas that enjoyed a bit of a home value appreciation bump include four areas of North Carolina (Carolina’s on everyone’s minds) and two areas of Colorado. Notable about Jacksonville, NC, is that it is right on the Atlantic coast and is home to Marine Corps’ Base Camp Lejeune. Winston-Salem has a good economy, thanks to several large corporations, including R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Krispy Kreme Donuts, and Hanes, plus is home to Wake Forest University, and it also has a strong arts community. Raleigh is the capital of North Carolina, so government seats almost always do well economically, plus it’s affected by it’s proximity to Research Triangle Park, the largest research park in the U.S., which is situated on 7,000 acres near Raleigh, Cary, Durham, and Chapel Hill. Raleigh was named the #1 on Forbes’ list of Best Places for Business and Careers.

It’s obvious as to why home values have appreciated in these areas. If the local economy is good, that’s the lifeline of a city or town. Of course, having good schools, proximity to major transportation, a vibrant arts scene, and desirable climate adds dressing to the cake, but jobs can make or break a town and its home values.

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